Media release

Statement on Cabinet meeting of 28 May 2008

29 May 2008

29 May 2008

Cabinet held its ordinary meeting in Cape Town yesterday, 28 May 2008.

Cabinet received a report from the Inter-Ministerial Task Team on the violence against foreign nationals in some parts of the country. The task team has now been constituted as a Joint Task Team with the Gauteng Provincial Government.

Cabinet once again condemns the violence against foreign nationals, in the strongest possible terms. The meeting noted that genuine concerns about access to services such as water, roads and economic opportunities, are being exploited and misused to manipulate communities to attack our parents, brothers, sisters and children from South Africa, the African continent, and some parts of the world.

On Monday 26 May 2008, President Thabo Mbeki convened a meeting of the Joint Task Team and the Premiers of the affected provinces, to discuss strategies to address the violence that is totally unacceptable and disgraceful. The main outcome of that meeting was a firm instruction by the President to all the Premiers of the affected provinces, and the task team, to accelerate relief efforts and to ensure that the security forces deal decisively with the violence against foreign nationals and other South Africans.

Cabinet noted that the task team was making progress in fulfilling its mandate to investigate the causes of the violence, and develop a comprehensive government response. The violence could not be attributed to a single cause but is a result of a complex set of factors. The task team will continue with the investigation.

Although the most-recent violent attacks started in Alexandra and spread to parts of the East Rand, northern parts of Johannesburg, and to a limited extent to other provinces, it is too early to conclude that a ‘third force’ is necessarily behind the violence. In some cases, there is some evidence of copy-cat activities in which criminals took advantage of the news story to conduct criminal acts. The Security Cluster will continue to investigate, with a view to ensuring that the State is better prepared to handle such developments in future.

The government’s response to the violence has the following five key elements:

Firstly, to deal decisively with the perpetrators of the violence and all those who participate in the criminal and violent acts. Our primary objective in this regard is to ensure that everyone, including foreign nationals, is protected from any criminal acts, to restore peace and stability, and to ensure that justice is meted out to all law-breakers in the shortest possible time. Special Courts will be set up to speed up the prosecution of the perpetrators of the violence. The South African Police Service and the South African National Defence Force will remain on alert for as long as it is necessary to deal decisively with any outbreak of violence. The message to our security forces is clear: no violence will be tolerated.

South Africa is a signatory to the Geneva Protocol on Refugees which enjoins us to protect the human rights of citizens from other countries. Government calls on our citizens to expose and report all those who are instigating violence against foreign nationals and those South Africans who speak a different South African language.

Secondly, we are working with organs of civil society to ensure that secure and decent temporary shelter is provided to those who have been displaced by the violence. The cold and wet winter makes this task even more urgent. The task team and all the affected provinces are already working with local government structures to ensure that suitable land or facilities are found urgently. The Gauteng and Western Cape Provincial Governments are at an advanced stage of setting up these temporary shelters with the support of civil society organisations.

Thirdly, to co-ordinate relief efforts and ensure that the victims of the violence are provided with all necessary support in the form of medical treatment and care, food, blankets and clothing. The inspiring initiatives from South Africans and civil society in this regard is most welcome and will go a long way towards reducing the burden that is carried by the victims of this senseless violence.

Although the events of the past few weeks have been disturbing, it has been encouraging to witness thousands of South Africans uniting to assist the victims of the violence either in their individual capacity or as part of community structures and religious groups. These actions give us much hope that South Africans are steadfast in their fight for the values that are contained in our Constitution.

Fourthly, government will work very closely with all affected communities, towards the re-integration of foreign nationals back into communities as soon as possible. Some of the so-called foreign nationals have already obtained South African resident status or citizenship. Many of the so-called foreigners are married to, or living with South African partners and have children who are South African citizens by birth. For these new South Africans and many other foreign nationals, leaving the country is not an option as they have made the choice that this is their country of choice. The government, together with the majority of South Africans, will protect this right and ensure that they can live in harmony in the country that prides itself on respecting human rights for all.

Fifthly, government will continue to accelerate the provision of services in line with the ‘Business Unusual’ theme, as outlined by the President in his State of the Nation Address during the opening of Parliament. Government accepts that the pace of service delivery needs to be expedited, as per the Apex of Priorities that were announced by the President, to address the developmental needs of our communities. However, blaming and attacking foreign nationals is an unacceptable way of highlighting community concerns.

Whilst acknowledging the urgent need to accelerate its programmes for alleviating poverty, unemployment and other forms of socio-economic deprivation, government appeals to all our communities to reject any agitation from those who wish to reduce this country into a lawless country, thereby dashing the hopes of millions of our citizens.

It is against this background that Cabinet also calls on the media in general, and South African media in particular, to ensure that the whole story of the violence is being told. Some reports continue to present a picture or tell a story that creates the impression that the majority of South Africans are xenophobic. In other reports, an impression is created that foreigners are being attacked in every corner of the country and that foreigners are not safe in every part of country. The truth is that the attacks are happening only in certain parts of the country, and that even in those areas that are affected by the violence, it is a small minority that is involved in the attacks.

Stories not being told include the fact that the security forces have dealt decisively with the violence; that in many of the affected communities, a number of citizens have stood up to prevent the attacks on foreign nationals; and that many South Africans are launching different anti-xenophobic initiatives and campaigns. Having said that, Cabinet welcomes the initiatives from some of the media houses that have sought to cover some of the positive stories alongside the very brutal and shocking stories that have characterised this unfortunate episode in our young democracy.

Finally, Cabinet expressed appreciation to the many South African and civil society organisations that have demonstrated selfless compassion towards the victims of the violence. Many, including school children, have stood up to be counted among those who refused to allow some parts of the country to be dragged into the dark ages by a tiny minority. Like many democracies, ours will face many challenges now and in the future, that will test our resilience as a nation, but we must never give up on the ideals that are expressed in our Constitution; if anything, for the sake of our children and their children.

Cabinet received and noted the progress report on the development of the Anti-Poverty Strategy, and the War on Poverty Campaign.

The meeting noted that South Africa will be hosting the 6th Africa Conference of Ministers of Public Services, in 2008. The venue will be finalised in due course. The theme of the conference will be ’Capacity Development for the Future Capability of the African Public Service’.

Cabinet noted that Mr Y Adua, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, will address a Joint Sitting of Parliament on 3 June 2008 at 14h00.

The following appointments were approved:

  • Mr M Simelane’s employment contract as Director-General in the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, was extended for a further three years
  • Ms N Nduli was appointed Director-General in the Department of Agriculture
  • Ms MRK Segabutla was appointed to the post of Regional Executive Manager: Limpopo Province of the South Africa Social Security Agency (SASSA)
  • Mr BE Maduna was appointed as Deputy Director-General in the Department of Labour
  • The following were appointed as Directors of the Board of the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) for a three-year period from 1 June 2008:
    • Mr M Siko (Chairperson)
    • Mr T Mokhele (CEC)
    • Ms J John (Deputy Chair)
    • Ms J Syms (Non-Exec)
    • Ms N Mjokweni (non Exec)
    • Mr Mkhwanazi (Non-Exec)
    • Ms A Seymour (Non-Exec)
    • Mr R Khan (Non-Exec).

The following bills were approved:

  • The Military Discipline Bill
  • The Municipal Structures Amendments Bill
  • The Legal Succession to the South African Transport Services Amendment Bill
  • The Civil Aviation Bill
  • The Medicines and Related Substances Amendment Bill
  • The National Health Amendment Bill
  • The Built Environment Professions Bill
  • The Public Finance Management Bill and Direct Charges Bill
  • The National Land Transport Bill
  • The Skills Development Amendment Bill
  • The Provision of Land and Assistance Amendment Bill
  • The National Environmental Management Laws Amendment Bill
  • The National Strategic Intelligence Amendment Bill
  • The National Intelligence Services Amendment Bill
  • The Judicial Matters Amendment Bill.

Themba Maseko (Government Spokesperson)
Cell: 083 645 0810

Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)


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